Track: Whitney – Country Roads/Rain

Whitney are a band whose music creeps up on you. The Chicago based group, led by guitarist Max Kakacek and vocalist/drummer Julien Ehrlrich, have always drawn lovingly from the ‘Windy City’s’ classic soul heritage but that’s only part of the Whitney thing. Ehrlich’s effortless falsetto, Kakacek’s warm fluid guitar, rich horn arrangements, a folk- rock emotional drift and a hint of indie restlessness all make up their distinct sound.

Ever since Whitney first eased their way into our listening hours in 2016 with their summery first album, ‘Light up on the Lake’ and then 2019’s more intimate ‘Forever Turn Around’, their approach has been refreshingly honest. Unsurprisingly exploring cover versions comes naturally to a band raised on Everly Brothers and Allen Toussaint work outs. Their 2017 single saw them take on on glam metallers Lion plus Dolly Parton and now comes a new single (available via Secretly Canadian), pairing John Denver’s MOR mega-seller ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’ with SWV ‘s nineties classic R& B smooch ‘Rain’ .

The Denver song is taken slower pushing the rich melody to the front with that authentic nodding C&W bassline and subtle wrap around brass. Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) shares the vocal adding real grit and what Ehrlich describes as ‘her classic country vibe’ to the track. In Whitney’s hands the longing for home becomes more real and more desperate. Covering ‘Rain’ pulls on their singer’s SWV obsession and remains faithful to the original. The finger clicks and sound effects might be missing but the paired down arrangement is so simple and so right. It’s Whitney at their most soulful, inventive and deceptively infectious.

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